BOING!!! Spring in the Air!

Been very busy lately with writing my dissertation and exam revisions, but of course like Bruce Wayne’s batphone when the garden calls it cannot be ignored. As a result, what with the nice weather we’ve had lately, I’m possibly one of the few final year university students in the country to have a tan.

We’ve been sowing seeds in trays over the past few weeks, in the hope of transplanting them in late April. BUT that (CENSORED) of a mouse Jerry has been digging into the seed-sowing trays, eating the peas, pumpkin and cucumber seeds. I have recently installed hanging trays in the shed in the hope that Jerry can’t get to them, and laid yet more traps to catch him once and for all. Failing that I am thinking of taking out a contract with a hit-mouse, or perhaps hiring some mousenaries to hunt him down (the jokes just keep getting worse).

To prepare for planting we have been mulching the empty beds using plastic sheets, especially covering last year’s fallow bed after turning the soil over, which will resume service this month, leaving last year’s beetroot bed to lie fallow this year.

In preparation for sowing we also completely rebuilt the old garden hot-box for seedlings, making it sturdier than ever, in the hope of freeing up shelf-space in the shed. To be extra flash we added a frontal window to the box so that it would make the most of the morning sunlight. Foam pipe insulators were added help seal the edges of the perspex lid, but can be removed to provide extra ventilation.

Although it has been getting sunnier lately it the weather remains quite cold. But still, it is good to see the winter come to an end. We did some good work over the winter, especially taking satisfaction in doing some proper manual work with hammer and nails, repairing the compost bins, the shed door and the beds, and rebuilding the hot box. Speaking for myself, these are the kind of jobs that you just feel like staring at once you are done, taking pride in the fact you have built something with your own hands.

But now is Spring and a time for planting! We so far have beetroot, peas and tomato plants growing in pots, ready to transplant in the near future. We have also sown some carrots, cauliflowers and peppers, and resown some more pumpkin and cucumber seeds (hopefully Jerry-proofed). Because we use soil made on-site from compost, we noticed that the resulting soil is not quite suitable for sowing. The large chicken wire sifter we usually use produces soil that is suitable for the garden beds, but still too lumpy for the delicate little seeds we were sowing in tiny trays. Fellow CG member Leonardo tried sifting the soil in a pasta strainer, but it proved too laborious. Inspired by his attempt, we finally resolved the problem by leaving some soil to dry in the shed and then sifting it through a straw hat we had in the shed. It produces a fine powdery soil that is perfect for the sowing trays.

I have to confess that in spite of taking on a second undergraduate degree and agreeing in my final year to run a community garden, I am actually a rather lazy person at heart. Today being Easter Sunday, opening the garden as usual, I was expecting it to be a solo effort, and I was fully prepared to sit by the rocket stove for four hours drinking nettle tea and eating hot-cross buns with jam. Luckily the unexpected arrival of three CG members encouraged me to get off my ass and organize doing some work. And so today we sifted some more soil, drew up a watering rota, did a little weeding, replanted the yarrow and marshmallow plants in the ‘med bed’ and sowed more seeds in trays – leeks, artichoke, and “Japanese huh?” . . . I should explain. Over the past few weeks, workers at a nearby Japanese restaurant have been kindly donating some of their organic vegetable waste for our compost bin (thank you very much – どうもありがとう!). Earlier this week one of them came by with more compost, as well as a small tray of seeds for me. She mentioned the Japanese name of the edible plant the seeds came from, which I repeated to myself three times in order to memorize it and then promptly forgot. And so today I sowed some of these seeds in a tray, and for the time being have decided to call them “Japanese, huh?” until such a time I can identify it.

With that kind of attention to detail, it’s a miracle that anything grows here, but all in all we seem to be doing quite well. Thank God it’s Spring.

Happy Easter!